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  • Lawmakers are led outside Congress in Guatemala.

    Lawmakers are led outside Congress in Guatemala. | Photo: EFE

Hundreds of people led protests in Guatemala City's main square, forcing authorities to suspend independence day celebrations.

Anti-riot police helped lawmakers leave Guatemala's Congress after a seven-hour confinement to avoid protests against a controversial bill that passed two days earlier, which critics blasted as a "setback" in the fight against political corruption.

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Congress workers, reporters and assembly members left at midnight after they were summoned to a parliamentary session.

Prosecutors accused President Jimmy Morales and the main political parties of illegal campaign financing. Opponents were outraged when Congress passed a "national emergency" decree on Wednesday to curb penalties for the offense.

The legislation sought to make party accountants responsible for financial irregularities, rather than party leaders. Protests ensued and Morales said on Thursday that he was prepared to veto the legislation if it was against the nation's interest.

Congress responded by announcing it would withdraw the bill. A motion to repeal the bill passed Guatemala's Congress on Friday with 130 votes in favor, none against and 28 absentees.

Earlier this week, the legislation was approved by lawmakers with a vote of 105-19.

Hundreds of people demonstrated on Thursday and Friday night in Guatemala City's main square, forcing authorities to suspend activities celebrating the 186th anniversary of the country's independence.

“Prioritizing the population's security, we decided, with the vice president, to suspend the official parade celebrating the independence,” Morales said.

A group of academics opposed to the bill crossed the security gates set up ahead of the parade around the Constitution Square and climbed onto the stage reserved for the president.

“We do not want the corrupted ones to participate in the raising of our flag,” said the protesters, attempting to raise their own flag tainted with red paint to represent the people's blood.

 

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